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Citation to Benjamin J. Hanson

Below is a citation to Ben Hanson. This was written and read by Maudlyn Mason at the 110th Anniversary Awards Banquet, May 2, 2008 at The Errol Flynn Marina, Port Antonio.

It is indeed a very distinct pleasure for me to speak tonight of a man who describes his alma mater as ”the Sacred Grove who took me in at age 20, where all my teachers treated me with love, respect and understanding.” I speak of a former Acting Principal, one who acted for a term after the departure of my Principal, Donald Burgess; I speak of the second alumnus to become Principal of Happy Grove High School, second to the ever-dedicated Montclair Hoffman. I speak of Benjamin J. Hanson, B.A., M.A., Post Graduate Diploma in Education.

Ben Hanson is a living testimony of someone driven by a fierce ambition to succeed, one who did not see age as a handicap to making the start to pursue his dreams. He is the humanization of the concept introduced to Happy Grove by the late, great Principal Dr. Kenneth Crooks, the concept that older, mature students over 19 years of age and who were successful in the Jamaica Local Examinations at the Third Year and sometimes Second Year levels should be allowed to attend Happy Grove.

Ben Hanson is an example of whom Denzil Southwood-Smith writes in his article, “Fair the Palm Groves” in the Happy Grove Centennial Magazine (1998). Denzil writes:

“Many young men and women, who would not have otherwise had the opportunity for secondary education, grasped the opportunity and went on to great success in the professions, government and commerce.”

Ben Hanson was admitted to Happy Grove on April 20, 1954 and was placed in the 4th Form. He sat the Senior Cambridge Examinations in 1955, was Head Boy in 1956, sat the Higher Schools Examinations in 1957, was successful in four subjects and was invited to join the teaching staff in 1958. A remarkable success in just four years! During his first stint at Happy Grove, he taught Biology, Botany, Spanish and Zoology.

He received a Teachers’ scholarship to study at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus and returned to teach Spanish at Happy Grove. It was at this time that he became my Spanish teacher in Form 6B and was the first teacher to encourage me to become a Spanish teacher.

In 1968, he left Happy Grove for London to pursue the M.A. degree in African History and Anthropology at The School of Oriental and African Studies. Happy Grove beckoned him yet again and he returned in 1970, became Vice Principal in 1972 and then left in 1973 to take up the position as Principal at William Knibb School in Martha Brae, Trelawny.

But Ben Hanson always wanted to give back to his alma mater and returned once again, this time as Principal in January, 1975. He is very grateful to the late Dr. Aubrey Jacobs and the Hon. Daisy Coke, the then Chairman and Secretary respectively of The Happy Grove Board of Governors. From Zimbabwe he writes:

“With their able assistance and support, I was able to re-organize the school. We enjoyed a very cordial relationship with the community.”

It was in the 1978 – 1979 academic year that he traveled to Edinburg, Scotland, to study. Having successfully completed the Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Management and Administration, he once again answered the call to rejoin the staff at Happy Grove one last time. He served for two years and in 1981 he and his family migrated to Zimbabwe, Africa where he has continued to touch many lives through education.

His contributions in Zimbabwe include his founding of “The New Generation”, a newspaper for young people; his first anthology of poems- “Just Feeling” and “Don’t Swim in The River Gwai”. One of his short stories, “A Bag of Flour”, was chosen by The World Service of The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as their Christmas story for 1987. “Checkmate” was awarded 4th prize in The BBC Africa Short Stories competition in 1991. Ben Hanson published his first novel, “Takadini” in 1997. Its third edition was published in 2002.

Fellow Alumni, Ben has asked me to “pass on my fond regards and hearty greetings to those gathered.” He wants us to know that, “mi nabel string bury a Happy Grove.” I now present this award for Benjamin J. Hanson in recognition of his contribution to his alma mater as Principal and to the world in which he lives.

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Editor’s note: Ben Hanson died on November 23, 2011 in Guyana, where he had lived since May 2008. Posted 11/27/11.

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